- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Mel, USA ink pact

USA Network is teaming up with Mel Gibson to develop an Iraq war miniseries, Reuters news agency reports.

“Peace Out,” from Mr. Gibson’s Icon Prods. banner, will tell a fact-based story of two young American men who head out for adventure in Iraq after the fall of Baghdad.

News of the six-hour series came from USA’s “upfront” presentations — where networks pitch their upcoming shows to advertisers. The network’s program plans also include a limited series based on Gigi Levangie Grazer’s best-selling novel “The Starter Wife,” about a new divorcee redefining herself in Hollywood after years of marriage to a studio mogul. Mrs. Grazer recently announced her split from moviemaker husband Brian Grazer after a nine-year marriage.

USA’s other new projects include “Stuck in Paradise,” about a tennis pro who begins work at a tropical resort and finds that he can’t leave because of a contract issue, and “Burn Notice,” about a spy who gets fired and then goes into business for himself while he finds out who set him up.

The network also intends to offer telenovelas — a type of TV serial that’s popular in Spain and Portugal and is catching on in America — with two late-night series that will air three nights a week for a 13-week run: “The Hamptons,” about the famed Long Island towns, and “Secrets of the Spa,” about a desert spa resort.

The perils of celebrity

Those poor celebrities. All they want to do is collect millions for making movies and singing songs, but the paparazzi won’t let them alone.

To find out why, check out “Chasing Angelina — Paparazzi and Celebrity Obsession,” a new CNN special bowing this weekend. The program, airing Saturday and Sunday at 8 p.m. (with repeat broadcasts at 11 both nights) follows a gaggle of reporters as they track down the pregnant Oscar winner as she travels through the African nation of Namibia. The special asks both the celebrities and the press covering them for their take on the rising interest in gossip.

E!’s Ted Casablanca, one of several gossip hounds and stars who appear on the show, calls the personal lives of celebrities “the best reality TV show out there.”

Some stars understand that all too well.

Larry Hackett, managing editor of People magazine, says the tip that Miss Jolie was with child first came from the actress.

On the other hand, some press organizations pursue information by any means necessary and don’t care whether the stars will be miffed by their actions. Bonnie Fuller, chief editorial director for American Media Inc. (publishers of such supermarket tabloids as Star, the National Enquirer and Weekly World News, plus the magazines Shape and Men’s Fitness) tells CNN “in a lot of cases, it is not necessary to have a sit-down interview with the celebrity in order to get that story.”

The special also reveals that the top celebrity magazines reach a combined circulation of at least 8.5 million readers apart from the throng of such gossip shows such as “Access Hollywood,” “Entertainment Tonight” and “E! News Daily.”

TiVo branches out

TiVo owners have a new excuse to stay glued to the couch.

The digital video recording pioneer is teaming up with an online video service to deliver Web-based programming to TiVo’s broadband television boxes, AP reports.

The deal with Brightcove Networks Inc. will enable some TiVo users to record Internet-based videos from Brightcove’s content partners along with the TV shows they now enjoy.

Brightcove, a privately held Cambridge, Mass.-based start-up, introduced its video publishing service in November. Its technology gives established or small independent producers a way to create online videos and then syndicate them through Brightcove’s distribution channels, of which TiVo is the latest.

“This is the first partnership for us to get content directly to the TV set,” Brightcove’s founder and chief executive, Jeremy Allaire, told AP.

Brightcove, which also has a deal with Time Warner Inc. to begin distributing videos this summer on AOL’s Web portal, says it has several hundred partners so far, including MTV’s Teen Channel and National Lampoon Inc.’s TogaTV.com.

Mr. Allaire said TiVo and Brightcove would pick an as-yet-undisclosed set of Web-based programs to debut in June on TiVo’s Internet-connected Series 2 digital video recorders. The companies said the programs initially would be offered for free but may carry advertising.

Both firms also are considering a plan for content producers using Brightcove to have their material distributed to TiVo machines — and the content providers, in turn, could decide to charge for the content, the companies said.

Terms of the TiVo-Brightcove agreement were not disclosed.

The move could help TiVo distinguish itself from rival DVR offerings from cable and satellite TV operators, Josh Bernoff, an industry analyst at Forrester Research, told AP. TiVo has said it is looking to add more video-on-demand features.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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